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Football: Defense shines as TCU defeats Houston 36-13

The Horned Frogs dominated the second half in their Big 12 Conference opener against the Cougars.

TCU v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The TCU defense delivered its strongest performance of the season Saturday evening, holding Houston without a second-half touchdown while limiting the Cougars to only 41 rushing yards as the Horned Frogs won 36-13 to start the Big 12 Conference schedule. TCU (2-1, 1-0 Big 12) saw its defense shine on third and fourth-down situations, with the Cougars finishing only 4-for-15 on third down and 0-for-4 on fourth down. The Horned Frogs also had two forced turnovers courtesy of interceptions by safety Bud Clark and linebacker Zach Marcheselli. TCU will host SMU next Saturday at 11 a.m. for the Battle of the Iron Skillet.

TCU led Houston 7-3 after the first quarter, where the Horned Frogs scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chandler Morris to wide receiver Warren Thompson. Morris turned in another solid performance under center, finishing 24-of-37 for 314 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and one fumble lost. Morris also used his legs effectively for the second straight week, carrying the ball 12 times for 53 yards. TCU totaled 564 yards on offense and showed good balance, rushing for 250 yards on 51 attempts and ending the game with a 6.4 yards-per-play average. Emani Bailey eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second time this year, rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

While the Horned Frogs racked up the yards on offense, TCU was forced to settle for five field-goal attempts in the game. Untimely turnovers along with penalties and inconsistent offensive execution allowed the Cougars to stick around while the Horned Frogs held a one to two-score advantage. Griffin Kell converted two second-quarter field goals from 40 and 53 yards to give TCU a 13-3 lead before Houston wide receiver Matthew Golden took a kickoff return 98 yards to the house, bringing the Cougars within three points. The Horned Frogs did find the end zone before the first half concluded, scoring on a 12-yard touchdown run from Bailey, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry to lead TCU’s rushing attack in the win.

TCU took a 20-13 halftime lead into the third quarter, where Morris connected with wide receiver Savion Williams down the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown. It was the first score of the season for the 6-foot-5 senior Williams, who ended the game with three catches for 54 yards. Slot receiver J.P. Richardson hauled in a team-high six catches for 60 yards, while Jaylon Robinson and redshirt freshman Major Everhart each had three snags, with Robinson going for 47 yards and Everhart totaling 45 yards. Kell, who went 3-for-5 on field-goal tries and 3-for-4 on extra-point attempts, added a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter.

As the TCU offense worked to extend the team’s lead over the Cougars, Horned Frog defenders including outside linebacker Johnny Hodges and defensive lineman Paul Oyewale led the charge on the other side of the football. The Horned Frogs sacked Houston quarterback Donovan Smith six times in the win, with Oyewale totaling two sacks while Hodges had one sack and a team-leading 5.5 total tackles. The TCU defense shut the Cougars out during the second half and failed to allow an offensive touchdown for the second consecutive week. Smith completed only 48.5 percent of his passes (18-for-37), throwing for 225 yards but logging -10 yards on 12 rushing attempts. The Horned Frogs iced their primetime road win in the fourth quarter, where running back Trey Sanders rushed for an 18-yard touchdown to cap off an eight-carry, 48-yard outing on the ground.